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Indians rearrange Boone's contract



Published: Thu, August 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



His character contributed to the deal, Shapiro said.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Aaron Boone remembers the low point.

"May wasn't very good," he said, smiling.

April, truth be told, was worse. But at least Boone can now laugh about his horrendous first two months with the Cleveland Indians, who never lost faith in the third baseman.

On Wednesday, the club announced it has restructured Boone's contract for 2006 and had exercised its $3.75 million option for next season. The new deal also includes a mutual option for $3.75 million in 2007.

"This is where I want to be," Boone said. "I want to be part of this team. It's a good ending."

Tough times

The start couldn't have been much worse. Boone's first two months with Cleveland were "the lowest points of my career." After missing all of 2004 while recovering from two surgeries on his left knee, Boone batted only .123 in April. He followed that up with a .188 average in May.

"There were some tough days," Boone said.

But it was during those bad times that Boone made his biggest impression on the Indians. He continued working at his game and kept an upbeat attitude in the clubhouse. And finally, he turned his season around.

In 47 games since June 1, Boone is hitting .298 with six homers and 23 RBIs. He raised his average to .226 entering Tuesday's game against the New York Yankees, who released Boone after he injured his knee while playing a pickup basketball game in January 2004.

"He was always the guy we wanted," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Now he's the player that we wanted. We appreciated the way he handled the adversity and the way he has played in the past two months.

"You find out about the essence of a man when times are tough."

Renewal

Shapiro said the club's decision to restructure Boone's deal had more to do with his character than anything. But Shapiro, too, acknowledged finances were a factor. If Boone had reached 500 plate appearances this year, his contract for '06 would have been guaranteed at $4.5 million.

So by redoing the deal, the Indians are saving money while keeping a player with greater value.

Earlier this season, Boone was regularly striking out and flailing at outside pitches. As he struggled, Cleveland fans turned on Boone, booing the former All-Star who couldn't seem to do anything right.

Boone did all he could to work his way out of the slump. The 31-year-old tried a new batting stance and consulted with his father, former major league manager Bob Boone, looking for answers to why he was struggling.

Despite Boone's lack of production, Indians manager Eric Wedge stuck with him and played him nearly every day. That patience has been rewarded by Boone, who has been solid in the field while providing leadership to Cleveland's young team.

"They stood by me," Boone said. "I'm sure I toed the line where they thought about not standing by me."




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